This is the first scene in my new YA Fantasy novel, Holding Forgotten Stars. Thanks for reading!
I’m not cut out to live a life of mediocrity, but that’s what people live here in Northrock, South Carolina. Population 692. And like most things, it rarely changes. It seems as soon as a baby is born, someone dies. No one ever leaves, either. Everyone has just settled here because they’re stuck. The fifty-foot fence surrounding our town keeps us all caged inside. And, to my knowledge, no one has ever tried to find a way out.
But I will. In less than two years, I’ll graduate from high school, and that’s when my life will really start. I know it’ll break my parents’ heart, but I want to see the world. Maybe I’ll drive to Yellowstone and take hundreds of pictures, take a bus to San Francisco and hop on one of those trolleys, and go hiking in the Yosemite and see the Giant Sequoias.
Right now, these are just places I’d read about in our history books and in our one school’s encyclopedia. But they looked magical, and the day I get my high school diploma, I’m taking off. Provided, of course, I can make enough money at my job to buy a car. I don’t earn a lot at Icy Dream, but Dad promised he’d match whatever I made at the ice cream shop so that I could buy a car before my senior year. He doesn’t know I’ll be using it to leave, though.
That’s the plan anyway, but not one person in Northrock has ever seen the fence open. Supposedly, it’s meant to protect us. From what, I don’t know, but I can’t imagine anything beyond it that’s worse than being trapped like an animal.
Before I make my big getaway, I’m going to test the waters, see if anyone is willing to help me find a way out of Northrock. It’s not a plan my parents are going to go for. I know that already, but at least it’ll get us talking about the fence and how someone can leave if they want to. We’ve never talked about that. I don’t think anyone has. It’s just assumed that we’ll all stay here and live happily ever after.
“Whatcha thinkin’ about?” Sammie has been my best friend since the first grade. We never go a day without seeing one another even if we’ve had a fight.
She tugs one of my brown curls and plops next to me on the edge of the creek, dangling her long, pale legs deep into the water. She kicks them back and forth while waiting for my reply.
But I really don’t need to answer her. She already knows. Sammie’s the only one who knows how badly I want to leave Northrock. And while she tries to understand, she just doesn’t. She’s happy here with her boyfriend, Evan, and her parents and sister. All she wants to do is get married and have kids of her own. And she can do that living right here.
She sighs. “You gotta get your nose out of those encyclopedias.”
“I can’t, Sammie. The pictures are so beautiful I can almost reach out and touch those places. You know,” I scoot around so I can face her, drawing one leg up onto the grass, “in those national parks, they have pictures of the sky, and the stars look like diamonds on a black sheet. They’re so big, and I wonder if you could actually touch them.”
Sammie snorts. “Touch a star. You’re dancing outside reality as grandma says.”
I grin. Sammie’s grandmother always brings a smile to my face even if she isn’t present. She just has a way about her that makes everything seem okay. “Yeah, well, even Grammie Maggie probably wouldn’t mind catching a look at those stars. She spends a lot of time in her backyard looking up at the sky.”
“She misses Grampa.” Sammie pulls her feet up and shakes the water off them.
“What are you doing for your history project?”
“Mrs. Fielders just assigned it today.”
“I’m going to do mine on Theodore Roosevelt.”
My nose wrinkles. “Like that’s never been done before. I want to do something different. Maybe I’ll write about the history of one of the parks.”
“You and those parks.” She jumps to her feet and swipes the leaves off the back of her Jordache jeans. “We’d better get back. The festival starts in a couple of hours.”
Regretfully, I stand, but I don’t immediately turn around. The sun glints off the cool waters of the creek, and I wish I could stay put a little while longer.
Sammie hooks her arm through mine. “Let’s go. You’ve got ice cream to dip.”
I nudge her in the side with my elbow. “Not for two hours yet, and I can’t believe I have to work during the festival.”
“Only for the first hour, though, right? I want to ride the Ferris Wheel, and Evan’s too chicken.”
“Yeah, only for the first hour.”
Our tennis shoes scuffle against the dried leaves as we make our way through the woods and back onto the main road that leads into town. Not that there’s much to it, though.
We don’t have shopping malls or theaters here. It’s just a grocery store, some drive-thru restaurants, one steakhouse, a couple of diners, and a big discount store where everyone shops for school clothes. Nothing like what I’ve read about in other towns and cities across the world.
As we reach the asphalt, I look back over my shoulder at the trees now obscuring the creek. One day, I’m going to leave all of this behind for good. That’s a promise I make to myself every day.
I'm on Twitter frequently, and I see so many writers still trying to finish writing their first book or trying to find a publisher for a completed book. And though they try to stay positive, occasionally, they reach out to other authors on Twitter because they need a lift, someone to say "It's okay. You're going to make it."
That's a feeling I certainly understand as years ago, I remember wanting to quit. And this was way, way before the internet when I was still having to send 300 page manuscripts through the mail. (Those postage fees were exorbitant even back in those days!) I didn't think I could take one more setback, whether it was a rejection or my printer breaking. Years later, when I was finally able to look back and had added a few more birthdays, I came to a realization.
Those weren't the worst days. What I mean is that I had a habit of thinking something was "the worst." My manuscript never reaching the publisher was the worst thing ever. That third rejection was the worst. Feeling like I couldn't write was the worst. And the list goes on.
Since that time, so much has happened in my life that could classify as worse than getting a rejection. There have been job losses, accidents, disabilities, and chronic pain. I've lost people I loved. I've had my heart broken. I've had multiple surgeries, held off someone trying to kick in the front door of my house, and have faced decisions that had more far-reaching consequences than what publisher I chose to send my next book to.
This doesn't mean my feelings at the time weren't valid. They were, but, now, years later, I can put them into perspective and see that those times were just stepping stones to get me to where I was supposed to be. And that's the piece of advice I want to leave with you today. The rejections, the difficulties, the successes, the lifts, they're all stepping stones to get you to where you are supposed to be.
So when you get the next rejection in your email or you don't win the contest you were desperately hoping to win, see that stone and know that you're moving one step closer to where your journey in this life is taking you. Success comes in many forms, and I hope you'll see that by working toward your goals, you are already successful.
It's difficult to believe so much time has passed since my first book was published, but it has been twenty years. I was so inexperienced that I was excited when I was offered a publishing contract by a questionable publishing house. (I didn't know it was questionable at the time.)
I think the novel sold three copies, for which I thank my friends. Otherwise, it collected dust while I watched it flop. Because I had no idea I was supposed to do anything to help it soar. I relied upon a publishing company who didn't communicate with me after publication. Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed and thought that maybe writing wasn't my thing.
But I pushed on. Probably out of sheer tenacity only. I just knew I didn't want that one book to be the sum of my writing career. So I wrote another book then another. They didn't actually start selling well until 2005. There have been ebbs and flows ever since, and I look back now and think that I don't regret the publication of that first book. Even though it didn't go anywhere and no one has really read it, it started my journey, and its resounding splat against the pavement as it crashed and burned ignited a spark in me.
So this is why I celebrate the anniversary of the publication of my first book that didn't sell.
This has been some of the busiest two months of any year I can remember for me. Maybe it's because my muse is back in full swing. I finished the manuscript I mentioned last month way ahead of schedule, and I'm now almost 25,000 words into another manuscript. I'm aiming to have that one finished by the end of next month.
These books are soooo different than what I used to write. Well, one is paranormal, but the one that I'm working on now is waaaay different. The tagline is Dexter meets the Golden Girls. And I'll be sharing the first page of it in an upcoming post as well as the first page of my paranormal one as well!
Hope you're all having a wonderful year so far!
Over the holidays, my muse called out to me, and I was inspired to start focusing on fiction again. So now I'm working on a paranormal romance (about 42,000 words in), and I anticipate having it finished by the end of next month.
It's been a long time since I've been excited about working on a book so I hope this means I can continue writing for a while at least. Everything seems positive as I have a lot of ideas coming to mind, and I've been pulling up unfinished manuscripts that I haven't worked on it a couple of years.
As much as I enjoy writing essays and articles, I LOVE writing books. I'm not certain whether I'll indie-publish this book or submit to traditional publishers, but I'm just happy to have words on a screen in book form again! It's a great start to the new year for me!
And that change is brought about by a hard decision I decided to make regarding my writing. As much as I love writing books, my focus doesn't seem to be there anymore. I can get started, but then I lose steam halfway through and can't drum up the energy or desire to go back. But I'm always excited to write an an entertainment article, an essay, a writing article, or a short literary piece. So that tells me that, for now, I need to give my complete focus to that.
Mostly likely, I will be changing my website around to highlight this focus. Does this mean I'm totally abandoning my books that have been published? No. They will remain available for purchase, but there won't be any new releases unless they are novellas. There will be no book-length fiction in the foreseeable future. I don't know when or if that will change. But I'm happy where my writing is taking me right now, and that is more important than struggling to write something I have no interest in!
For the past seven years I have tried to get my work accepted by a literary magazine or site. No joy. Most of the time, I didn't even receive a rejection, and the silence was deafening. Literary fiction isn't easy to write, and I know that's the reason why I hadn't succeeded yet. So I kept trying.
Finally, my determination paid off, and I sold a short piece of literary fiction to Short Edition, which calls itself a new kind of literary pulse. This description is taken directly from their website.
Short Édition aims to raise literary awareness, encourage new and emerging writers, and highlight the importance and timelessness of literature.
And if you click on the link above "a short piece," you can read my story for free. I hope you enjoy a part of my dream.
Those of you who've been following this blog for a while know that I write every day whether it's a blog post, a page on my latest work-in-progress, an essay, or a post for Red Shirts Always Die. It's a goal I set for myself way back in 2012, and nine years in, I'm still writing every day. But what I write has changed so drastically.
When I set that goal, I was focusing on fiction mainly. Now, I don't write as much fiction as I do non-fiction, although I do keep a work-in-progress at all times. I try to write at least two different things a night like a few pages on a manuscript and a blog post. That doesn't always work out which is why I haven't updated this blog since December 7th. Ugh.
I'm working on a schedule that will help me get things back in order. So hopefully, this blog won't be in dry dock for much longer!
On a side note, I rewatched some of Dawson's Creek last night. It's been so long that I've forgotten most of the series, but Joshua Jackson has just gotten better looking with age!
'm sure if you've been following me a while you've noticed that I'm bouncing around a lot with the things I write, especially in the past two years or so. Once upon a time, I focused solely on writing fiction, but I reached a point where I was having to force the words, and I wasn't enjoying it anymore. Writing was a chore.
Enter articles. I could write several of these a week and still my goal of writing every day. Along with those, I began to write essays and short stories, and I got more involved with writing posts about television and movies for sites like Movie Pilot (now defunct), Hidden Remote, and now Red Shirts Always Die. It was refreshing not to have to worry about plot holes and characterization.
Recently, my first fiction novella in 2 1/2 years released, and I'm working on a second one now. I'm back in the groove of fiction writing, but I don't know when I'll return to full-length novels. Right now, I'm enjoying writing various things, and I don't have to force any of the words. Writers write, and that's what I'm doing.
I wrote all of this to say, if you're a writer, write whatever you feel like writing. Don't push yourself to write what just isn't in you. I did that for too long, and I almost stepped away from writing altogether. I'm glad, instead, I decided to spread the words I write out over a multitude of avenues.
I'm honored that an article of mine has been accepted by Rooted in Rights which is part of Disability Rights Washington, an organization dedicated to making positive changes in the disabled community.
Disability is something with which I'm more familiar than I want to be as I was disabled in a car accident many years ago. And though I don't talk often about it, it limits my ability to do many things I could do before the accident, things that I took for granted.
So this article that Rooted in Rights accepted is on a topic that is very close to my heart. I'll admit that I had no idea the difficulties the disabled community experienced until I came face to face with them myself. I'm glad that I'm able to share a little of what I've learned and, hopefully, to help educate able-bodied people.
My article won't be available until December, but I'll share a link here when it is. This is the writing I do that stays with me long after I type the final word on the page.
My thoughts, experiences, challenges, and goals. Right here. At least once a week or so. Oh, and opinions, too. Those will definitely come in. Join me!